What’s your hair type?

Making the most of your hair and finding a style that really suits you isn’t always easy. There are all sorts of factors to consider – face shape, hair colour, fashion, taste… – but before you wrestle with such considerations it’s worth asking a very fundamental question – what type of hair are you working with?

When we talk about types of hair, we’re usually referring to its curl pattern. Your hair type is determined by the shape of your hair follicles. Different follicles produce different hair types, from poker straight to tightly coiled. Knowing your hair type should give you a better understanding of your hair’s natural characteristics and might even influence the way you choose to style and care for it.

There are four broad hair type categories – straight, wavy, curly and coiled – and three further subcategories for each. If you’re trying to work out which category your hair falls into make sure you wash it first – so it’s completely free from styling products – then examine individual strands closely in the mirror.

Straight hair

Straight hair has no natural curl to it. Natural oils from the scalp tend to move more easily down the length of each strand, which can give straight hair an appealing natural glow. On the other hand, this can lead to greasy looking locks. Dry shampoo should help to cleanse oily hair without adding to the problem.

Type 1A

The least common hair type, 1A hair is extremely fine and perfectly straight. Consequently, it can look a bit flat and limp and might prove difficult to style. Dry shampoo can be your ally in the fight against excessive oil and thick hair products that might weigh your hair down are best avoided.

Type 1B

1B hair is still pretty straight but tends to have a bit more body and a slight bend towards the end of each strand. 1B hair should hold a curl more easily than 1A hair.

Type 1C

Predominantly straight, 1C hair is typically very thick and typically has a suggestion of waves without falling into the wavy category. Individual strands are relatively thick and coarse. An attractive tousled look comes naturally to 1C hair.

Wavy hair

Naturally, wavy hair should form an S shape. In many respects, wavy hair is a happy medium between straight and curly hair, but it isn’t always easy to tame.

Type 2A

A gently wavy hair type with a naturally tousled look. An S-shaped bend may just about be discernible but will be loosely defined. 2A hair tends to be straight from the roots to eye level then gently wavy to the tips.

Type 2B

This naturally tousled hair type is similar to 2A but tends to be characterised by a more defined S shape, which can mean it’s harder to straighten. Frizz can become an issue with this category of hair so you’re likely to find yourself reaching for the anti-frizz serum.

Type 2C

Type 2C is characterised by more tightly defined waves (verging on curls) that often start closer to the crown of the head. Typically, this category of hair is pretty thick and prone to frizz. De-frizzing tools and products like diffusers and conditioners are your friends.

Curly hair

Curly hair is characterised by naturally defined ringlets that tend to prevent the scalp’s natural oils from spreading down the full length of the strands. This means curly hair is prone to dryness.

Type 3A

The loosest curly hair type, 3A may include a mixture of tight waves and loosely formed loops. It should be possible to straighten this category of hair, but it can also be prone to heat damage.  

Type 3B

Compared to 3A hair, curls in this category are more spiralled. Curls are abundant and springy and tend to start at the roots. Dryness can be an issue and moisturising products are a must.

Type 3C

Characterised by tight, springy corkscrew curls, 3C hair is thick and prone to frizz. Products like leave-in conditioner can help in the fight against dryness and flyaways and blow drying is best avoided.

Coily hair

Coily hair is coarse and kinky, without the discernible ringlets we associate with curly hair. Unlike curly hair, coiled hair tends to retain its shape when wet rather than straighten out into waves.

Type 4A

Type 4A hair is characterised by dense, tightly coiled curls that are usually around the diameter of a pen. Hair in this category tends to be extremely delicate, which means moisturising products like butters, creams and masques. Unlike other coiled hair types, 4A hair falls down.

Type 4B

Characterised by tight zig-zagging kinks. Defined curls can easily become overwhelmed by frizz and it can take a time-consuming regime to maintain well defined curls. Again, butters and curling creams can help.

Type 4C

The tightest category of coiled hair, 4C coils are extremely dense (think 70s afros) and it can be hard to discern any defined curls. This category of hair is quite fragile and hard to untangle, so cautious brushing is advised. Rich conditioners are advised and you may decide to ditch shampooing in favour of co-washing.

Find the best parting for your face shape here